My firm belief is that when you have something good to offer your child – not food, not a toy, but an experience – the child will respond. The smaller and less varied a child’s world is, the less influence adults will have over behavior. The more you take away from a child and the more you remove a child from the world, the less opportunity the child has.
** The ABCs of Behavior is on hiatus and will return.
Today’s tip on creating positive experiences is: museums.
My grandparents lived in the middle of New York City and loved museums. When I was a toddler and kindergartener, grandfather took me regularly to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was mutually memorable and important to us. My favorite part was Arms and Armor. When he was already retired, he proudly showed my a scholarly article that he’d published. He opened the article with a comment about taking me to a museum.
More positive experiences in more places with a circle of associates is the recipe to create richer brains. The takeaway from basic research into neural development of primates supports this. My experience with children with special needs does, too.
***Consistency consolidates learning. Variety is important for growth.***
Your expectations as a parent or grandparent have to be realistic, not too high, but definitely not too low. Unscientifically speaking, it doesn’t matter what your child’s intelligence or maturity level is. It doesn’t matter if your child has a disability, or the type or level of level of disability. Our children grow into what we expect of them.
Challenge your child in steps. Scientifically speaking, find your child’s Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD for short). Know what he or she could do last time, and ask just a little bit more of them the next. Think of playing catch. Stand just a little farther away, or add a third person into the game. Now apply that formula to every enriching experience you want your child to have. Go that extra step; stick with it another 30 seconds, 5 minutes, or 1/2 hour; expect a little more communication, or participation, than last time.
The more experience your child has with a type of positive, shared social experience, the more he or she will appreciate it. Rewards that are social in nature, that are shared experiences, will grow in value. The rule of thumb holds. If playing catch with a typical peer is as much as the child can do, then that becomes the reward for appropriate behavior. In our family.
Going Out (and feeling secure)
Taking your child on outings in the community has no lower age limit, as long as you believe your child is safe. That’s what can make public settings that charge modest admission fees perfect. They have gates and guards and, often, terrific parking lots, snack bars, and public restrooms.
Museums are safe, handicap friendly environments for bringing children out into the world. My favorites are to keep trips short. We made the trips short, frequent, fast-paced (walking at the child’s choice of speed), and always involving a snack. Longer trips would lead to melt-downs. If you start museums very young, you may be surprised at how accepting the museum guards will be.
Our favorite types of museums in the early years were: botanic gardens, trains, modern art museums with large or multi-media artworks, science museums, and dinosaurs. Keep a child with disabilities out of some of the more competitive settings, such as children’s museums, treasure hunts, and dinosaur digs.
Do You Do a Zoo?
Zoos and outdoor gardens (arboretums, parks) are exhausting because of size. If your child loves the outdoors, be prepared to alternate running and walking, and to take your tired, cranky child to the car in a tram. If zoos are all you do, you’re missing out.
For more tips, see this link from National Geographic. Love your family time together, and you will find it easier to manage your child’s behavior.